It’s that time of year again when Keith Goldhanger finds himself eating, drinking and sleeping in fields in order to witness some old and new acts and to break in his new dancing shoes.
What a glorious mess of a weekend this turned out to be this year. Standon Calling 2019 hit top marks for everything one can wish for in regards to the weather, the line up and specifically in regards to this particular festival the lay out of the site.
Standon Calling tweaks the positioning of the stages, stalls, bars etc annually yet this year we felt the slight changes from last year were definitely for the better. After experimenting with the main stage not being where the main stage had always been in 2018, regular attendees were happy to see it back where it surely must always live again this year. The Laundry Meadows stage, literally a five minute shuffle away from the main stage has now established itself as important as its neighbour. There’s more room for more people to watch bands on this stage, schedule times were accurate enough to set your watch by, clashes of acts were minimal and there was no problem watching any band anywhere due to this stage no longer being enclosed as it has been the last few years.
Electric Willows is the first area anyone has to walk through before even the smell of spiced chips, barbecued pig or burnt cheese hits you. Over the weekend this small stage is hosting an array of acts that draw decent size crowds whatever the time of day. During the afternoon you can witness middle aged parents that have succeeded in persuading their young children that loud and heavy Drum and Bass is exactly what they should be doing on a day like this therefore as one set of people are having it large as they say, the kids are jumping around and losing themselves in front of a smoke machine, tapping people on the backs before running away and hiding their ear protectors which seems to be the only thing that can interrupt these grown ups who are waving their arms in the air and singing along to a Beck V Prodigy Soulwax remix. Children’s entertainers Dick & Dom played us some Christmas tunes and took turns in playing us snippets of other genres before we had to vote for our favourite during the daytime whilst SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO, JUSTIN ROBERTSON or EROL ALKAN took charge before we’d even realised it was long past our bedtimes.
Some of us didn’t even get around to dipping our toes into the festival swimming pool this year. The BBC Introducing stage was here again next to the pool to put on display a few acts that have started to grace local radio and added themselves to the list of thousands of acts that have experienced the same first steps onto what they hope will be greater things. Around every corner another tent or bar would be keeping the punters dancing, clapping or simply chatting outside whilst fairground rides blasted out short snippets of awful pop music and has us watching and wondering how anyone can find time to go on some dodgems whilst everywhere you look decent music is being served up, decent food is being served up too and there are strangers to meet that we haven’t yet been introduced to. This tent in the garden of Standon Lordship doubled up at times with some comedy turns during the weekend. Russell Kane packed the area out to the point that we wondered if this could have been better suited to a main stage performance. Standon Calling, unlike many other festivals could have accommodated this without any fuss we imagine and we’d suggest that any of us on the periphery would have enjoyed the experience a lot better had this have been so.
A non stop choice of musical entertainment leading up to ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN’s appearance on the first evening got many of us geared up for the weekend ahead. ST AGNES are proving that they really must be one of the best rock bands around the UK at the moment and they manage to get most people to agree that if you are going to make music such as this then there’s only one way of doing it and that’s the right way. St Agnes manage to rock hard, a description we don’t like using but a description that St Agnes are qualified to own and therefore any arguments against heavy rock music stop here. If you need to watch at least one band that we can be allowed to simply call a rock band without it sounding lazy and dirty then this is the band to go and see.
SEA GIRLS over on the main stage are nothing special to the untrained ears and are one of those bands that always seem to exist during the summer that pull big crowds, play at almost every festival but are never going to be helicoptered into Knebworth one feels. HONEY LUNG, ANNABEL ALLUM, THE JAPANESE HOUSE, plus whoever we saw inside THE PEOPLES FRONT ROOM reminded us that every year this festival can provide us with non stop high class entertainment that some of us begin investigating more about as the months go by. The people’s front room is a small intimate space ran by a collective of musicians that appear sporadically alongside their friends acts as well as their own and it all seems to flow along perfectly. Finding out some of the names in this particular establishment may be difficult but what we do learn is that most the folk inside this tent providing the music all seem to have their own little thing going on and with help from others around them manage to go through their repertoire that’s slightly improvised however very well executed. Talented musicians that can put their hands to anything by the look of it and a great place to sit down on a comfy sofa during the proceedings whether it happens to be one AM or one PM.
Echo and the Bunnymen remind us of the time when Ian McCulloch really could reach those high notes but this doesn’t deter us from enjoying a show that includes many of the favourite songs we’ll never tire of. He has three bottles behind him that are consumed in any order in between songs that we assume may contain something that keeps his voice in good order however once the fags come out then that theory is dismissed and we’re singing along to the hits that keep on coming which at times are louder than the front man himself. Yet again another band to appear at Standon Calling that we never really previously considered but are perfect for these surroundings and this audience.
WARMDUSCHER are a huge highlight of day one. Fronted by a bloke in a white cowboy hat backed by familiar faces from other bands we’ve crossed paths with in the past (Fat White Family, Childhood, Crewel Intentions), sounding as unhinged as Beefheart and with all the rock and roll credentials of John Spencer (Blues Explosion) this is no doubt a band one of us will come back to once we’ve gone back to living with a roof over our heads, digested their current tunes available and a wait for another hugely satisfying gig to come along that we can hopefully witness again before the year is at an end.
RAG’N’BONE MAN is an ideal way to conclude the entertainment on the main stage for the first night of three Standon Calling headline slots this weekend. Laid back tunes with a gentle powerful voice that on any other evening would have confined us to the comfy cushions and a bottle or two of wine however just around the corner we have an IDLES soundcheck to attend along with a few hundred others. The band enter the stage one by one like footballers at half past two on a Saturday afternoon, acknowledging the occasional cheers from those in early with a casual wave whilst avoiding any eye contact before making sure everything is working and firing the usual array of current classics that some people are still experiencing for the first time. For a band that are now playing everywhere for everyone to see (this is the bands second show today having already conquered Truck Festival earlier) we have one or two black marks that need addressing though. First of all the spitting. It’s a bit gross to watch. Secondly, whatever the beef is with Sleaford Mods is boring. This was another typical brilliant performance that drew another huge crowd of all sizes and shapes who all seemed at one point to wander into the mosh pit for what may have been the first time for years, the first time ever or for one or two who may have thought they were thirty years younger we imagine the last time ever.
Saturdays rain fell and no one seemed to care. Not even the people watching an inevitable act that we always expected to see one day at Standon Calling. On the second day it happened. An Elvis impersonator singing Nirvana songs that was as entertaining as bunch of old blokes recreating Joy Division songs in front of a selection of people who are happy settling for second best instead of digging in to investigate some of the new bands just as exciting as Nirvana were back in the late 80’s early 90’s. ELVANA are a Crackerjack end of the show act that don’t need encouraging. You’ll all love them of course when you do get to see them but around the corner will be something else.
We’d heard but not seen a lot from MAVEN GRACE since last years appearance and the bands 2019 show drifted not at all seamlessly from sound check into gig mode intermittently for 45 minutes but was still fabulous regardless. New tune ‘Me Vrs The Volcano’ ended the brief appearance, a weekend highlight for at least one of us and a band we feel we need to see again just as we concluded twelve months earlier but had to wait for the festival to come around again to do so.
A run of shows that included LAUREL, IRIS GOLD, the mighty JOY FORMIDABLE, the breathless FRIENDLY FIRES the intriguing KATE NASH and the new kids on the main stage headline slot WOLF ALICE didn’t even end the day. Oh no…there was the brief jaw dropping appearance from Russian Techno band SADO OPERA whose thumping 80’s techno with some rather crude lyrics were simply a stopgap before wandering off towards THE DIG IT SOUND SYSTEM parked up under canvas in the middle of the main drag and attracting hundreds of passers by as well as those that stay for a few hours and never even manage to pass by in the warm early morning and now slightly muddy mid point of the festival.
Sunday arrives and its the day one can spot the day visitor by the clean (and unnecessary) Wellington boots, the small bags each hold onto as though their lives depend on it or the band members in jackets with their girlfriends or boyfriends wearing their worst, clean, best clothes. Those of us who have been on a diet of spicy chips for the past few days are now wearing our worst, worst clothes that in some cases are the same outfits as the ones we arrived in but now inside out and covered in glitter.
Sunday afternoon then …..THE CUBAN BROTHERS are making their annual appearance on the main stage, the annual dog show is taking place, a bloke that is more famous for appearing on The Undatables TV show than his music is at the moment plays in front of a few hundred TV license holders and we consider just watching the Swing Carousel go around for half an hour. We decide eventually on DICK AND DOM’s entertaining DJ set that begins another marathon of foot tapping music to see us through to the end. JUNIOR’s (very) french electronica was lovely to witness as was ROISIN MURPHY who broke the world record for costume changes during a song (every song) she had us shuffling our feet to and The BIG MOON who we’d heard on the radio, been told to go and see them but have left it until now to do so. This four piece have conquered many festivals this summer, go out on tour with The Pixies soon and will soon become many peoples favourite band. Its the four voices singing in unity that grab the listeners attention and will be seen again for sure by those a little late to this party.
NILE ROGERS AND CHIC performed by what is being said my many as probably the best headline show these fields have experienced over the past 14 years this festival has been going. Every classic recognisable tune was followed by another which climaxed in a stage invasion of all ages that was stolen entirely by a young girl older than five, younger than eleven (she’s eight) that beats any glitter cannon or firework finale hands down. She’d have her own record deal and breakfast telly appearance if this was Glastonbury however this marvellous moment typifies this small festival just as Joe from Idles going from ‘I will not put this wig on now or at any other time….’ to wearing it within less than a minute to the usual faces watching as many bands as time allows. Then there are the dogs on site, the reusable mugs, the cashless system, the long walk up hill back to our tents every evening (morning), the swift entry, the swift exit, the stage times, big Jeff, the cow shed we visited loads of times and danced to everything that was being played at any time of the day or night, the hot tubs, the quality of acts and this year, the weather that was warm enough for t-shirts and shorts 24 hours a day yet not sunny enough to worry about sun stroke. Once we started leaving on the first night we’d remember the Boogaloo tent and added this area to our regular visits as we staggered around trying to catch a bit of everything going on over the weekend. SAVAGE DISCO, the thin cowboys dancing the night away with their arses hanging out to Soulwax remixes and other stuff we were trying to get someone to record for future reference (they never returned our calls in the morning) kept us from going to bed early, we missed loads of bands because we couldn’t stand still, we missed loads of workshops because our minds would not allow us to concentrate and we walked through the biggest crowd ever to all be singing that song about having the time of our lives (Dirty Dancing we’re told) as Kate Nash decided she wasn’t finished yet that evening.
Its been said before and its worth repeating. Standon Calling is the perfect festival for anyone that enjoys music, dancing, dressing up or simply want to watch people enjoying music, dancing and dressing up (our own prize this year would go to the man walking around as Eddie The Eagle). It does appear at times that there are many observers like this especially on Sunday. The day trippers, the ones watching bands they have no understanding of whilst sometimes looking appalled at how some of us appear to have been living for three days. Three days of non stop partying, listening to bands we love, bands our friends love, bands for all the family alongside loud exciting or chilled out sound tracks following us around as we move, keep moving and struggle to get up the following day and do it all again. It’s the best festival for any family to go to if they’ve not been to one before and the camp site is now far enough away for the kids to sleep through without being woken up by a big bass drum.
Standon Calling 2020 will be it’s fifteenth festival. The challenge to at least equal the fourteenth begins now. The organisers have a year to prepare for what is such a lovely small festival, not too far outside London, not too crowded and with a habit of getting the right performers to attend year after year.
We reckon this was the best one we’ve attended so far.
If you’ve not been yet then early bird tickets for next year are now available here.